Thursday, December 20, 2007

Test your Knowledge of School Grades in New York City

Version 2 based on more input:

Written by Professor Celia Oyler

Test your Knowledge of School Grades in New York City
Version 2 (12/21/07)
Written by Professor Celia Oyler
(send comments to

In November, 2007, The New York Department of Education issued a letter grade of A through F to each school in the city. Each grade is based on a very complex set of formulas. Test your knowledge about these new school grades.

1. The school grade is based on three “elements”: school environment, school performance and school progress. At the elementary and middle school level, what percentage of the final grade is derived from achievement test scores?
a. 10%
b. 25%
c. 55%
d. 85%

2. The New York State achievement tests used to calculate progress are designed by psychometricians and are normed in advance on a large group of students to ensure that the items at each grade level are appropriate for that grade level.


3. From a psychometric point-of-view, New York State achievement test scores offer a reasonably adequate tool to measure progress of learners from year-to-year.


4. Under No Child Left Behind, schools are expected to show that children in grades 3 through 8 have—on average—made one year of progress as measured by achievement tests.


5. In the DOE’s formula, the year of progress is calculated using statistical methods that take measurement error into account.


6. The 55% of each school grade (in elementary and middle schools) that the DOE calls “progress” (and is based on the averages of 2 achievement tests scores at each grade level) takes into account the unreliability of the average gains in achievement within each school.


7. To get the highest score of a “4” (1 is lowest) on last year’s English Language Arts test (ELA), in 5th grade, a child can only get one question wrong on the multiple choice section.


8. The scoring of the writing sample of the achievement tests uses a rubric and is conducted by:
a. Department of Education personnel to ensure that all results are reasonably fair
b. Teachers across the city who sometimes know the schools they are grading for
c. Personnel from the New York State Department of Education who are trained to not take into account such factors as the children’s handwriting
d. Temporary workers hired by each school

9. Each school in New York City is subjected to a Quality Review where a trained observer rates the school on many dimensions of curriculum, instruction, and assessment of learning.


10. The results of these Quality Reviews are then factored into the final grades each school receives.


11. A school can receive a “proficient” on its Quality Review and still receive a school grade of “F”.


12. Circle all that are correct: The school grades are based on how well each school:
a. Teaches children to solve problems
b. Uses culturally relevant pedagogy
c. Integrates the arts
d. Provides time for children to exercise
e. Prepares children to make healthy food choices
f. Helps teachers work cross-racially and cross-culturally
g. None of the above

13. The scores that New York City students achieve on the New York State tests show basically the same trends as those that a sample of New York City students achieved on the national achievement test (called the National Assessment of Educational Progress and administered since 1969 to samples of students across the country).


14. There is a strong correlation between the list of schools that New York State has rated as failing and the ones that received a grade of “F” by the New York City Department of Education.


15. Of the 346 schools in New York City that the State of New York has flagged as having the most difficulty (SINI: Schools in Need of Improvement; SURR: Schools Under Reregistration Review), how many received a grade of A?

a. 10
b. 25
c. 40
d. 50

16. The ARIS computer system specifically designed by IBM for the DOE and intended to track student progress on annual and periodic assessments cost approximately
a. Eighty million dollars
b. Eight million dollars
c. Eight hundred thousand dollars
d. Eighty thousand dollars

17. The DOE assigns each school its final grade based on the actual score in relation to all the peer schools so in theory every school could achieve an A, if all students showed a year of progress.


18. A school can receive an “F” even if 98% of its students are rated on grade level in math and 86% are on grade level in language arts, as measured by the New York State tests.


19. After all the large number of calculations are completed—including being compared to the schools in the “peer group”--each school receives a final score. These scores are then converted into a final grade.


20. The final score of one school may be only one hundredth point (0.01) away from another school, but one school can get a higher letter grade than the other.


21. Short Answer (extra credit): Since these school grades are: so expensive to produce; not based on many important aspects of what many educators and parents consider central aspects of schooling; do not take into account multiple measures of student progress and school quality; do not take into account standard statistical measures of error; and are based predominantly (in elementary and middle schools) on state tests not designed to be used to make year-to-year comparisons of student growth, why are these school grades being used by the Bloomberg/Klein administration?


  1. Do you think the schools that voted Yes were Leadership principal schools or were influenced by Unity spinners?

  2. My school overwhelmingly voted "yes" for the money (89%). Our principal is not a leadership academy lackey (but she did lend her support and even said the her union said it was ok) nor was our school influenced by UNITY unless of course the strategy of our UFT rep was that there should be no discussion on the matter and that flyers in our mailboxes were enough to inform everyone.

  3. Unity spinners always have an impact and in many schools that said NO there was an absence of that. They will target these schools in the future by sending in more union officials to spin away.

    As for Leadership acad. school, that is hard to track. I do know my old school with an LA grad rejected the merit pay deal, but that may be due to the fact that she is so despised.


Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating). Or because your comment is irrelevant or idiotic.